Mature in 2010

PEOPLE say 2010 flew by, but for me the events of early January seem a long, long time ago. There I was lying on green grass, and eating chocolate and grapes at a local sports oval after a moderately long bike ride with my then girlfriend. It feels like something that happened when I was 23 and not a mere 12 months ago perhaps demonstrating I’ve packed a couple of year’s worth of life into one. Indeed this year has felt like two distinct periods of time. The first involved boarding with a family in the small town where I have worked as a journalist for four years and being in a relationship. The meant second living with my parents on their farm, studying almost full time for two months and then commuting to my journalism job, and being single.

In the hot dying hours of 2009, almost 365 days ago now, I was at a mate’s place and four of us guys there decided to have a water fight. We took our shirts off and split into teams and threw water balloons at each other for ages. It was a powerful moment as it was one of those things I imagine ‘normal guys’ do, but I rarely have. It is also set up this year as one of solidification of increased manliness and becoming more mature. The building up of myself was possible as nothing major went wrong for me personally and there were no long periods of sleeplessness or feeling down. The worst month or so was when I knew I needed to either invest more heavily, or end, my relationship and wasn’t keen on moving toward either option. Once we mutually ended it in the first days of July apart from suddenly needing to find other people to hang out with on the weekends and a halving in the number of texts I received; the relationship hasn’t been something I miss. Immediately after breaking up I regretted ever becoming a couple, but now I’m glad to have had that experience.

In the first six months of the year I was bored with my job, sick of learning shorthand and disappointed my applications for a new one led to rejection. About the time I paid a professional $90 to write me a resume, I decided to become a high school teacher. This led to three months of writing and literature study, via the internet, so I am qualified to do an intense one-year course next year to teach in 2012. Then I returned to work for another five months before that course starts. It’s funny as I’m leaving my journalist job at the weekly country newspaper just as I’ve mastered it. I can write well, interview over the phone well, take photos well and sub-edit well. Most of my challenges in the office revolve around not having a bad attitude or complaining when things happen in ways I don’t agree with. Work itself was split into two distinct periods as well. The first with the same news team that had been there since I started in late 2006, and then a new editor and journalists arrived in the second half. It’s interesting how much affect different colleagues can have on work enjoyment. I had a few unhelpful infatuation type thinking involving one new colleague later in the year, but it was less aggressive than in previous times, which was encouraging. I also enjoyed helping that same colleague learn about journalism and watching them become more skilled as well as analysing things to watch out for when teaching in schools.

Probably one area where solidification hasn’t been very successful is with God. I’ve been in good prayer habits the past few months by doing it when I’m driving 45 minutes to work and then listening to a sermon on the way home, but that’s the highlight. I’ve got a bit lax with Bible reading and initiating spiritual conversations with non-believers though I did do a few of these in the middle of the year. It’s a tough crowd. I really have to fight more to draw near to God and for relationship with him. Too easily it can become something in the back of my mind that rarely affects my current activity or thoughts. Living with non-Christians in the first half of the year was probably good for God consciousness because I always had to be on my toes in case they were watching me or they started a spiritually themed conversation. Living with my Christian parents means I don’t need to be thinking so intensely about how I might be helping them become saved.

It’s been a good year with socialness. Being in a romantic relationship definitely exposed some of my weaknesses in relating, such as wanting to do what I want to do when I want to do it and not being willing to really listen and question sometimes, and I was able to use that knowledge to improve in the second half of the year. Moving back to my parents allowed me to go deeper with friends in this direction, such as the mate I went bike riding with several times and people in the city. It also led to more time on the internet at night that resulted in some good messaging/skype time with a few of you good fellows as well as others. Deeper I felt more confident in my friendships and relationships. I don’t think I was as clingy in my thinking or as concerned if certain conversations or activities turned out to be less fun or interesting than was possible. I wasn’t as worried about making sure I had something interesting to say or something to say at all, which funnily made me more likely to be talkative. Though I didn’t fly off to see anyone I did get to go camping twice with different people late in the year, which was a great experience and definitely something I want to do more. 
   
Ultimately my take away from 2010 is that it is nice to be an adult. It’s as if my mental and emotional maturity is finally catching up to my physical age. It’s a good thing to not be as driven by emotions; to not be so easily swayed by events. It’s nice to feel somewhat secure in who I am and where I’m going, and that if it all goes bad it will only go so bad. Our culture is weird in that it values youth so highly. I would need a pretty good reward to go back and be 15 or 18 or 20 again. At our wider family Christmas celebration a few days ago I felt reasonably comfortable interacting in groups and with my manly cousins I only see once a year whereas a couple of years ago I wouldn’t have.

So to 2011. I’m looking forward to doing something different at university and going to high schools and training to be a teacher. There will be meeting new people and learning new things and putting that into practice in the classroom. Hopefully studying will also involve moving to Melbourne. Since I’ve been back at my parents I’ve visited the city 10 times or so in the past couple of months and living in the surrounding suburbs would be a great experience. I’ve never lived in a city. I find out on January 10 which uni will take me, so looking for a new place to live would begin after that.

If 2010 was about consolidation then 2011 should be about stepping out. It will be about: risk, initiate and engage.

Risk: I feel myself getting comfortable with my life, with my people, with my financial situation, with my interests. I feel because I’ve found my happy spot as an adult that there is less impetus to try to talk to new people at one end or plan an overseas trip at the other. In 2011 I need to fight against this and push myself out of my comfort zone. I need to make an effort to do things that make me feel uncomfortable.

Initiate: this is something I didn’t do too badly on in 2010 most notably at work when it would have been easier to zone out rather than try for the 20th time to get a conversation going with quiet workmates. (In the end they settled in and initiate as well now). But with being comfortable with where I am there is a tendency to become defensive in life and I need to keep initiating with people and opportunities.

Engage: one thing I’ve noticed lately is how few people seem to really engage with others; really take the time to think over what others are saying and question deeply. I want to be someone who engages with others in 2011 who thinks about them and wonders about them and digs into them.

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I’M looking forward to, hopefully, writing my recap of my 2010 tomorrow. It might sound silly, but writing out a decent piece on the past 12 months and getting all reflective is one of the highlights of this blogging thing and my end of year period. To get me in the mood I read my past attempts tonight:
(the links I had here don’t work anymore, so I deleted them)

2006
2007

2008
2009

Males I’ve known

(I was going to say this at the bottom of the post, but it gets crazy early and stays that way, so when I wrote this I was – spent four hours driving today – tired and thus tried to use bigger words than I normally would.)

THEY say time heals everything and while that isn’t strictly true it sure helps us develop some perspective about past events as we mature and gain distance from them. Memories can become insights about God’s grace upon grace to us of the ‘oh look it’s raining and the crops are growing kind’; the grace of gifts from a good God.

Sometimes when I read the stories of other people who deal with same-sex attraction I get mild journey envy. I say mild to mean a fleeting thought or 30 seconds of concern about my disadvantaged situation. I’d hate for you to think I wallow in pity and most of the time I don’t. Also envy is a sin; sin is bad; I try not to sin. This envy, this “God why hasn’t this happened for me?” is usually provoked by a tale of an extremely good relationship with a man or men. A situation so perfectly orchestrated it could only have been God working out the infinite details necessary to bring it together. This is not to say that I think we are God’s pawns on a chessboard or that we do not have a role in succeeding or failing at journeying into closer companionship with members of our gender. But I tend to think God has a bigger role than some. I should say my envy happens in decreasing amounts these days and I am genuinely happy for my brothers and their blessings.

The premise that I am envious of another SSA brother for having close relationships with other males is based upon the universal desire for closeness to people, but also the commonly held belief that healing comes partly through said relationships. I must admit to a short period of heresy on this issue when I decried this belief as “SSA pop psychology”. I continue to believe that God, God, God and how we see Him and think He sees us is the pivotal issue, but have taken a calmer approach to the importance of healthy male relationships. I would argue they are important and a tangible way we notice improvements in our confidence and ability to be accepted and integrated with others.

I think my envy is irrational for many reasons. One being that envy displays a lack of trust in God’s provision for me. And on a deeper level it says that I alone know what I need in the way of male relationships; ie I deserve this to happen to me with this person, because then I would feel manly and accepted. I wonder if the reason I have not been given certain experiences other people have is because they would be too much for me to cope with and therefore I wouldn’t get any benefit from them. I have some support for this hypothesis in that sometimes I have had an intense experience with a guy ie chatting one-on-one with a housemate in a spa that has caused me more problems than healing. Perhaps also the combination of my personality and experience would mean a certain friendship or experience would lead to sin rather than to glorifying God.

Anyway, all this is to say that when I look back over the years, God has seriously blessed me in orchestrating situations where I was surrounded by maleness. I want to recount some examples of them here as an act of praise for His treatment of me, but hopefully also a reminder to seek hard to find blessings in our life and to push on with whatever we need to be working on, so we are ever more ready to receive them healthily into the future.

–    2003 age 17: in my last year of high school I was part of a group of five guys, the first time I was part of a friendship group of guys that was consistently larger then two or three. We had some good times talking about guy stuff and seeing who could physically slam into each other the hardest.
–    2004 age 18: when I stayed at the residences on my university campus the five other people in my ‘house’ were all guys in what was usually a mixed-gender housing situation. I didn’t have good relationships with any of them, but it surely gave me examples of maleness and built up my identification as a male.
–    2005 age 19: in winter I had four weeks off uni during mid-semester break I went home to my parent’s farm and day after day I helped my dad fix fences. It was such a healing time and a big improver of the relationship with my dad.
–    2006 age 20: another year and more man work with a man. This time it was a guy from my church and we spent a lot of one month working on a building he was renovating putting in insulation and nailing on plaster to the walls.
–    2007 age 21: I ended up living in an all male household with two other guys for about two and a half years. I still play tennis regularly with one of them.
–    2008 age 22: at work the office was renovated, so I was moved into an area, which was basically five male journalists. I learnt a lot there about being a man from observing and listening. At this point in time I was living with males and working with males and talking to males on the internet at night and seeing male friends on the weekends sometimes. It was all men all the time really.
–    2009/2010 age 23/24/25: most of my previous examples involve older guys or people my age, but during these later years I’ve been in contact with several guys who were a bit younger than me, which has been interesting to see how young and insecure they are and how old, manly and confident I have become (it feels weird to write that, but it’s basically what has happened to some degree).

In writing these things out they seem slightly average and dull. But I believe God had a hand in making them happen and prepared me to take advantage of them.